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Cinema Verde Presents: Salted Earth
Cinema Verde Presents: Salted Earth

Now Playing | "Salted Earth" plunges us into the heart of an invisible and creeping crisis that's transforming the Mid-Atlantic – the inexorable rise of sea levels. This hard-hitting, yet tenderly woven 20-minute documentary paints a vivid picture of an escalating environmental catastrophe, where the threat is not just the swelling sea, but the encroaching salt that kills forests and decimates arable land, but could also signal a return to the natural order of the Atlantic Coast. Our journey navigates the brackish waters of climate change alongside an intrepid team of scientists. Through their tireless work, they seek to unravel the intricacies of how salty water infiltrates groundwater and soils, with consequences as far-reaching as they are devastating. Their research is more than academic; it's a desperate quest for solutions that may help vulnerable communities adapt and even survive. "Salted Earth" is not only a saga of scientific discovery. It's also a story of human resilience and ingenuity. We venture into the heart of communities, the lifeblood of the Mid-Atlantic, whose existence is at stake. We see firsthand the farmers struggling to preserve their livelihoods, community leaders forging ahead with audacious resilience strategies, and everyday individuals battling the rising tide. Through intimate interviews with scientists, farmers, and community leaders, "Salted Earth" provides a sobering, yet inspiring look at the very real and present challenge of sea-level rise. It asks a question that affects us all: Can our strategy against the rising sea succeed, or are we fighting an unwinnable war? The answer may unsettle you, but the journey is one you cannot afford to miss. Watch "Salted Earth" and see the future of our world through a salt-streaked lens.

GoGreenNation News: The tech billionaires’ utopia in Solano County aims to house as many as 400,000 people
GoGreenNation News: The tech billionaires’ utopia in Solano County aims to house as many as 400,000 people

The details of a group of Silicon Valley titans’ secretive land grab in Solano County, California are starting to come into focus, even as residents say a lot is still up in the air. VC giant Marc Andreessen, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, and Laurene Powell Jobs are among the tech giants who banded together to purchase over 60,000 acres of land about 60 miles northeast of San Francisco. California Forever, as the group calls itself, revealed last year that it hopes to create a whole new city in the middle of the county. But in order to do that, the group must get voter approval; Solano residents approved rules in 1980 that dictate development must be in the area’s existing seven cities and not in agricultural areas. California Forever has now submitted lengthy ballot language to get the land use changed, and in late February it was given the go ahead by the county to start collecting signatures to put the measure on November’s ballot. The group has 180 days to collect a minimum of 13,062 signatures. The county’s official, nonpartisan summary of the ballot initiative reveals a number of new details around the project, including that if voters pass the measure, California Forever would change the land use of about 25,200 acres, 17,500 of which would be for the city and about 7,000 acres of buffer between it and the nearby Travis Air Force Base and the existing city of Rio Vista. The new city would have capacity for 100,000 to 400,000 residents. Still, even with so much more information spelled out, residents say there are still many important questions left unanswered. Not much is known about how the city would be built. The summary notes that “the exact phasing, standards, and criteria by which development would proceed” are not part of the ballot measure, nor are the ten “voter guarantees” that California Forever has promised to Solano County residents. The guarantees, which are outlined in the group’s proposed ballot, include $400 million in down payment assistance to help residents purchase the homes created, $200 million in commercial investments in the county’s existing cities, the creation of at least 15,000 “good paying” local jobs, $70 million in scholarship funds for residents to go to college or training programs, $30 million for protecting open space and habitats, a “sustainable” water supply, unspecified investment in the region’s highways and schools, and no new taxes on residents or businesses. The county summary makes clear that, by California law, these promises would only become enforceable once an agreement is negotiated and entered into between California Forever’s developers and local government, long after the ballot measure goes before voters. “It’s very misleading to voters to call the ten guarantees ‘promises’ when right now there is no way to enforce them,” says Sadie Wilson, director of planning and research at local nonprofit the Greenbelt Alliance, which is part of the Solano Together coalition opposed to the development plans. And even if all of the promises were secured in such an agreement, they could disappear if the city were to incorporate. Currently any unincorporated area in Solano, which includes the land that California Forever wants to develop, is governed by the county. Wilson thinks it’s likely that, if the city were to hits its 400,000-resident ceiling, they would want to create their own government with its own officers and laws. Although California Forever’s ballot language says it would give the county power to enforce a development agreement after incorporation, the county’s summary states that enforceability “would be limited by state law if the New Community incorporates.” The summary also notes, “The environmental impacts and financial feasibility of the New Community have not yet been fully analyzed and would not be known until after the Measure has been approved by the voters.” It states that “the full impacts to TAFB [Travis Air Force Base] are not yet known.” Passing the measure, Wilson argued, would amount to “just giving them a blank check for development.” The process has also had its bumps. California Forever had to resubmit its initiative language twice. The first time was to address a concern raised by the county that it wasn’t clear at first that the voter guarantees are not enforceable until after the measure passes and a development agreement is in place. The second time was to respond to concerns raised by Travis about the impact of the new city on its flight programs, which Travis said afterward addressed the problems it had raised. But that shows, Wilson says, that California Forever didn’t include Travis as much as the group had touted as it developed its plans. “Ballot initiatives are frequently updated in response to community feedback, and we are delighted that we were able to address the community’s concerns,” says Julia Blystone, a spokesperson for California Forever. Blystone says the group conducted town hall meetings, focus groups, individual meetings, phone calls, and more to communicate with “tens of thousands” of residents. It also convened a community advisory committee made up of 21 residents. “The community’s feedback is evident in all aspects of the initiative,” she says, “including its size, location relative to Travis and Rio Vista, and the 10 Guarantees.” But opponents argue California Forever’s community engagement has mostly been for show.  As Duane Kromm, a resident and former member of the Solano County board of supervisors, told Fast Company in September, the group had to have already been at work crafting such a lengthy ballot measure in the fall at the same time it said it was listening to residents. “What hypocrisy,” he says. When Wilson spoke to California Forever early on, before it started holding town halls and doing polling, “What we heard about the plan was exactly what we saw come out in the initiative.” Then there’s the group’s tactics. Last May, California Forever, then going under the name Flannery Associates, filed a federal lawsuit against local ranchers and residents in the area, many of whom refused to sell their land, accusing them of violating antitrust laws and seeking $510 million in damages. After Margaret and Ian Anderson, who have owned a farm in the area for generations, refused to sell their land, California Forever terminated a lease they held on additional land—one they say they needed to operate their business. As a result of the termination, the Anderson’s operations were reduced by 60%. “Our farm is kind of falling apart because of what’s going on,” Ian told Fast Company. Wilson points out that the Greenbelt Alliance has advocated for building more housing and sees many positives in the California Forever proposal. “We love dense, walkable development. That’s fabulous,” she says. “But you can’t just locate that development in a location that is not connected to jobs, to communities, to transit, and call it sustainable development.” As it is, 67 percent of Solano County residents commute out of the area for work. It’s remote, and the sole transit in the area is an Amtrak stop in Fairfield that only goes to Sacramento or Oakland; it doesn’t go to San Francisco. Blystone says the group plans to create “one of the largest transit operations in the Bay Area,” including a network of rapid bus lines within the new city and a “rapid shuttle program” to connect it to other cities in the area and Bay Area Rapid Transit. There are also many concerns about the environmental impact of paving over this land and bringing so many people to live on it. California Forever is still claiming the land it bought is “rated among the worst for agriculture in all of Solano County,” where “for years and years, nothing much has been able to grow.” Yet the map it has used to justify this point labels it only as “grazing land” that is “suited to the grazing of livestock,” with no qualification as to its quality. To be rated higher the land would have to be irrigated, and Blystone claimed that the reason it isn’t is “because the soils are so poor that it makes no economic sense to do so.” But the farmers who have owned land in the area for generations vehemently disagree. They use a unique dryland farming technique that helps maintain the area’s scare water resources and absorb rainfall to mitigate flooding while producing livestock, grains, nuts, and produce worth more than $350 million annually in gross sales. They have also protected wetlands that are home to endangered animals. “This is productive, valued land,” Wilson says, “that is, right now, doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.”

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